Oglala Sioux Tribe Council Cancels Public Vote, Pine Ridge Remains Dry

Oglala Lakota tribal members were supposed to vote Tuesday on legalizing alcohol on the Pine Ridge Reservation. But on Monday, protestors convinced the Oglala Sioux Tribal council to cancel to referendum:

Of the 18 member council, 14 were present. Nine council representatives voted in favor of the motion to stop the election: Sonia Little Hawk-Weston (Wakpamni District), Marilyn Charging Crow (Eagle Nest District), Collins “CJ” Clifford (Wounded Knee District), Floyd Brings Plenty (Oglala District), Ellen Fills The Pipe (Oglala District), Jackie Siers (Wakpamni District), Blaine Little Thunder (Eagle Nest District), David Pourier (Porcupine District) and James Cross (Pass Creek District).

Four council representatives voted against the motion to stop the election: Ella John Carlow (Pine Ride District), Chauncy Wilson (Medicine Root District), Donn Fire Thunder (LaCreek District), and Craig Dillion (LaCreek District). Patrick Ross (Porcupine District) voted to abstain.

“We, as legislators, spend a majority of our time dealing with social problems, most due to alcohol abuse. I have to be a voice for the children and the generations to come. Legalizing alcohol is not the answer. It’s like encouraging the use of alcohol to make money off our own people who are already fighting this disease,” stated Council Representative Jackie Siers [Natalie Hand, “Oglala Lakota Stop Vote on Alcohol,” Native Sun News, 2016.05.18].

Pine Ridge voters approved repealing the long-standing alcohol ban in August 2013, but concerns about the legitimacy of that public vote led the council to ignore the results. Now Percy White Plume leads 30 protestors on horseback to push the OST council to cancel another public vote and leave the alcohol ban in place. I’m trying to figure out if that’s a victory for people power or not.

37 Responses to Oglala Sioux Tribe Council Cancels Public Vote, Pine Ridge Remains Dry

  1. Nick Nemec

    If there were alcohol sales on the Pine Ridge at least the tribe could use the tax money generated to fund substance abuse treatment programs instead of seeing that tax dollars go to neighboring jurisdictions.

  2. its like trump says, bar all muslims into the usa until immigration is figured out. I disagree with his racist stupidity.

    but until this nation, this world figures out how to treat the disease of addiction, the council resisting on rez liquor sales seems to be acting in their peoples best interests.

    Obama just charged biden with figuring out cancer, an immensely complex set of diseases. perhaps someone knows off hand whether addiction is more prevalent than cancer.

  3. mike from iowa

    Over 20 million Americans over the age of 12 have an addiction (excluding tobacco). (2011 numbers)


    (Cancer numbers from 2014)

  4. on top of things as always, mfi:)

    NIH stats:

    •The number of people living beyond a cancer diagnosis reached nearly 14.5 million in 2014 and is expected to rise to almost 19 million by 2024.

    •National expenditures for cancer care in the United States totaled nearly $125 billion in 2010 and could reach $156 billion in 2020.

    I think $$ spent on addiction are in this ballpark.

  5. happy camper

    This is definitely one area we have genetic differences imo, although Native Americans are not the only group who are largely incapable of processing alcohol “normally.” One of my NA friends chewed through a leather boot. Her daughter who is 1/4 quickly changes temperament. One of her four children (1/8th) is similarly affected. He bit his brother and spit on a cop. I’m convinced there’s a physical difference (cause we’re not all the same in every way), so it seems another reason marijuana should be legal on the reservations. Abstinence for everyone of all substances is just not realistic, so why not make something legal with fewer negative consequences?

  6. bearcreekbat

    The widespread awareness that alcohol abuse is a major problem on the Reservation demonstrates that prohibition has never solved the problem. Instead, prohibition makes alcohol the “forbidden fruit” that attracts people, especially young people.

    When your solution to a problem has not worked, and continues to fail, perhaps it is time to consider a different approach. Legalization would bring alcohol and alcohol abuse out of the shadows. Users and their loved ones will no longer fear arrest and punishment by seeking help to stop abuse and addiction. Money that would be spent on alcohol in White Clay would stay on the reservation and could be used for positive education and alcohol abuse treatment programs.

  7. If there are 18 council members and only 9 voted to stop the referendum, that’s not a majority. Should have taken 10 to cancel the referendum, no? Typically action by a public body requires a majority of members and not just a majority of who shows up. I question the validity of the action.

  8. In fact I don’t know that canceling the referendum (if less than a majority vote by the tribal council even legally canceled it) changes anything about the fact that tribal citizens previously voted to legalize alcohol on the reservation. That earlier vote should stand, and perhaps what the proponents should do is sue the tribe to enforce the earlier vote and compel the council to enact an alcoholic beverage code.

  9. Good Sense


    According to Roberts’ Rules, a majority of the voters present constitutes a decision.

  10. Good Sense

    A ‘quorum’ takes into account some members not being present, and normally a quorum is required for any action taken and subsequently binding.

  11. Good Sense


    So we should increase the volume of drinking on the reservation so we have more money to spend on rehab of drinkers????

    What kind of logic is that?

  12. Good Sense

    The Journal article was very interesting. Looks like the drinkers are not happy as to how rapidly the ban is being removed.

    I also found it a bit ironic that the attorney for the drinkers said we have to get more drinkers drinking on the rez so we have money to rehabilitate the drinkers.

    Oh well, some logic is not smart.

  13. For a bill to pass the SD legislature, Good Sense, it takes a majority of elected legislators in both house and senate regardless of how many show up. So when there are only 30 of the 35 senators present it still takes 18 to pass a bill – not 16. Is the tribe government by Roberts Rules of Order that you say requires less?

    But like I said above and according to the linked articles the tribe has already voted to legalize booze. That’s the law of the land even without a new referendum, no?

  14. mike from iowa

    Good sense, quick look up. Too late. Everything just went right over your head and you totally missed it like usual.

  15. happy, you really sadden me. that is the most ignorant paragraph I have ever read and it deserves to be removed.

  16. Roger Elgersma

    I think the tribal leaders know the situation and made a wise decision. I grew up by a dry town and as a kid never saw anyone drunk. My brother who has a PhD and reads serious stuff told me he read that this country had six times as much drinking before prohibition than after, so it did do some good to take a break.
    There are some on the rez who have quit and I would assume that letting them show leadership on what to do next is best.

  17. happy camper

    You’ll have to tell me why that’s wrong Leslie. All my Native friends believe alcohol affects them differently. They get drunk very quickly and don’t remember their extreme behavior. They metabolize alcohol differently. They’re telling me this, and you’ll find many articles on the Native blogs that say this as well. You’ll also find some that don’t, but this should be an open part of the conversation on why alcoholism among Native Americans is so high. When things are biology, like lactose intolerance, that medical difference has to be part of the equation.

    “What people forget about alcohol dependency in Indian country is that it’s different for Native Americans than for other ethnicities.

    Unlike other cultures that have ingested alcohol for thousands of years, the relationship between indigenous Americans and alcohol is relatively new. Native Americans have had fewer centuries to develop the genetic tolerance to alcohol that is present in other ethnic groups.”


  18. mike from iowa

    Roger E- just from perusing one page of Prohibition articles,the general consensus seems to be that drinking increased during and afterwords.

    While liquor was supposed to be harder to get,it was definitely more potent and had many unknown and potentially harmful ingredients.

  19. It seems the SD state legislature isn’t the only governing body around here that has a hard time doing what the voters say.

  20. The thing that bothers me is White Clay is on the Village outskirts of Pine Ridge. Literally 10 feet into Nebraska is the first liquor store. It’s absolutely in your face…4 million cans of beer. N god knows how much hard liquor.

    It’s a putrid appalling place and nobody knows how to deal with it, with all the booze flowing into PR from there and the alcoholics on its streets.
    Of course we all know booze is sold in Kadoka, Martain, Gordon, Etc. All around the borders.

    Happy it’s messed up. All the prohibition in the world won’t stop it. The villages are famous for the bootleggers. There’s not enough detox, rehab, halfway houses, good homes, jobs … and now there’s meth.

    But also many good hard working brilliant ranchers, teachers, program directors and staff, business people, medical providers etc.

    I feel the some solution lies in street intervention, long term treatment , safe housing and rehabilitation. Also enforcement of DUI laws,, domestic violence laws etc. There is not enough of these things happening.

    Treatment can work but when you have no home to go, to no income etc. It’s hard.

    Tough situation. . Quorum or not. No win in this either way.

  21. Mr. Rorschach, I do not believe the legislatures in South Dakota are governed by Robert’s Rules of Order. I’m just sayin…

  22. Roger Cornelius

    I don’t believe Happy’s comments for a second, there are too many clean and sober Indians throughout the reservation. What we see in White Clay is a small percentage of reservation residents and you’ll see the same ones over and over.
    While white people for the most part are closet drinkers, Indians are overt drinkers and often form a vanguard, if you will, in public.
    This Indian doesn’t drink and most of the Indians I know don’t drink or drink responsibly. It is an insult to categorize all Indians as drunks.
    Problems on Pine Ridge are monumental and the tribe fails to attack the real problem. Alcoholism and drugs aren’t necessarily the problem, addiction is the problem.

  23. Roger Cornelius

    South Dakota isn’t governed by Robert’s Rules of Order, it is governed by greed and ignorance.

  24. Indeed, I myself have seen Mr. C not drink. I am not sure I agree about his generalization about white people being for the most part closet drinkers, as I myself often see vanguards of white people drinking in public. It probably isn’t an insult to say white people are closet drinkers, as most of the white people I know are not. I’m just sayin…

  25. Mr. C. You should read the rules of the legislatures. So should Mr. Rorschach. I am sure Mr. H already has, as he aspires to be one. They are not Robert’s Rules of Order. Sorry, sir. These are simply the facts and if it pisses some people off that it is grudznick who has to correct them, then tough cookies. Facts are facts.

  26. happy camper

    “HUGE rates of alcoholism: According to estimates from the U.S. Indian Health Service, the alcohol dependency rate is six times greater for Native Americans than for the general population. In fact, rough estimates from missions that help Native American people have found a 60-80% lifetime prevalence rate for the development of alcohol use disorders and alcohol dependence among Native American populations. And although many people will agree that the rates of alcoholism are high, experts still don’t really know if American Indians are especially susceptible to alcohol dependence or not.

    Genetic theories for alcoholism among Native Americans: The main current theories for alcoholism among American Indians focus on alcohol metabolism to try to explain why alcohol dependence rates are so high among the population. Some researchers have thought that Native Americans are predisposed to alcoholism because of differences in the way they metabolize alcohol. More specifically, researchers think that alcohol metabolism may affect the regulation of alcohol intake, because interference with production or elimination of the alcohol metabolite acetaldehyde has behavioral effects. And while studies of families, twins, and adoptees support a genetic predisposition to alcoholism may confirm this, the exact genetic code has yet to be cracked.”


  27. Good Sense

    Just like certain cultures have a propensity to alcoholism, there are certain posters who have a propensity to be a jenny when posting.

  28. happy camper

    “Study Debunks Notions About Native Americans, Alcohol. Native Americans are more likely to abstain from alcohol than whites are, and heavy drinking and binge drinking rates are about the same for both groups, according to a UA study.”

    Somebody’s gonna have to tell me why studies report such wildly different results. We only learn from the truth.


  29. mike from iowa

    Spike-wasn’t there a lawsuit filed against White Clay a couple years back? They claimed White Clay with a population of 12-14 people sold nearly 5 million cans of beer in one year.

  30. meat eaters vs. carbs, I heard last weekend. irish were potato eaters for some number of years. Indians may have primarily eaten meat for at least thousands of years. deep answers are never blog-simple. i’ll bet dawkins might have a learned botanist’s opinion. time to put your home grown theories to rest, happy. anecdotal evidence doesn’t mean… well, you know….

  31. happy camper

    We have a big problem Leslie if in the year 2016 everyone is still speculating if Native Americans have a different physiology and ability to metabolize alcohol. I’m willing to throw out my friend’s stories/beliefs, and my limited first hand experiences as insufficient, but why are there not accurate studies? Scripps started a 5 year, 3.6M study in 2011 to study alcoholism in Native Americans. There should be no guessing when effective treatment and good public policy is required. I am at a complete loss why so many credible sources say one thing and others the exact opposite.


  32. well, the leading republican military think tank on weapons has anointed itself as the expert on addiction, so that should tell you where the future of addiction science is going to go. they think marty jackey and larry long’s 24/7 program is the greatest thing since sliced white bread in solving alcoholism and driving. the alcoholic rushes around town twice a day getting tested so he/she can scream to the bar, casino or closest safe place to satisfy the craving for the rest of the night. 24/7 does not address the medically understood primary symptom of the disease of addiction, craving, and still calls it a moral failing. this is the national thinking of the republican party and our criminal justice system that thinks getting tough, not smart, on crime wins local/state elections. deeply flawed.

    this is kinda of an important election year coming up. vote democratic if you want intelligent, soulful policy.

    and read NIH, NIDA. https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/directors-page


  33. Until now, none of the more than 9,500 accredited U.S. graduate medical education residency programs have had training programs in Addiction Medicine… it will facilitate insurance coverage for patients seeking and receiving services from board-certified addiction specialists, as well as facilitate reimbursement to physicians, clinics, hospitals, and health systems that offer services in Addiction Medicine.

    This will create important institutional incentives for health care to invest in prevention and early intervention in order to reduce the costs of treating substance use disorders once they have progressed to their severest forms.

    Recognition of Addiction Medicine by the ABMS was the result of years of concerted effort by the American Board of Addiction Medicine (ABAM), the Addiction Medicine Foundation, and the American Society of Addiction Medicine with the support of NIDA and other federal partners such as the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.



  34. happy camper

    To the contrary: “…. one of the things we have worked to dispel is the myth of Native Americans and “firewater.” The firewater myth posits that Indians have a weakness for alcohol and that if they drink even small amounts, they become uncontrolled and aren’t able to handle drinking and subsequently develop alcohol addiction. What we were able to show conclusively is that this is absolutely not true and that if anything, Indians have a resistance to the effects of alcohol so that they can drink actually quite astronomical amounts of alcohol and not feel as intoxicated. What we’ve been able to show is that people who are at higher risk for developing alcoholism seem to have an inherent tolerance or a low level of response to alcohol. They need a lot more alcohol to feel intoxicated and so they’re more at risk for becoming a heavy drinker because of that and heavy drinking is basically the route for developing alcoholism.”

    That’s from their earlier study. Sent them an email to see when the results of this last 5 year study will be made available.


  35. happy camper

    And Leslie many people have an agenda so you have to be skeptical about the data. Accurate and impartial statistics are important.

  36. Yes mfi, there was a lawsuit by individuals in state court, actually been several over the years. They will never get anywhere. Because Indian people cannot influence a state government and that govt also controls it’s courts. I can tell you all I sat in a meeting with the Governor of Nebraska, the state attorney general and others and he stated Closing White Clay is off the table. He would make them follow the law but no closing. Nebraska wants White Clay right where it is.

    People and organizations have been studying alcohol and alcoholism among natives for 150 years.

    Too complicated to put in statistics. Mr. Cornelius makes an interesting statement about our people gathering as a vanguard. That would confound some researchers. It’s just all unique. Family to family community to community rez to rez. I know a guy that drank from the age 17 -27 went to treatment and has been sober 42 years. I know a guy that was an alcohol treatment counselor. Never drank. 50 years old and lost it. On the street for a good 8 years now. I know Christian McGee from Pine Ridge. One of top basketball players in the state, Chadron State star and now Head basketball coach at Red Cloud. Never touched a drop in his life. 5’6″.!! Never let anything stop him. Beautiful person.

    We need to provide more opportunities for the people suffering from this disease. I know some can be helped if there was more focus on treatment. There are many moral values l as well as economic advantages to this. It’s difficult in our society of America to measure prevention. Treatment, friends, being part of a community, a decent place to stay and an opportunity to contribute to society in some way and we can save 30-40 percent of the street people Rosebud has an alcohol and meth treatment facility that shows great success. Those follow up issues are 1/2 the challenge. I know some, such as Grudz, will say it’s individual responsibility and socialism doesn’t work and why should we pay for their bad choices. But the costs to society are greater. Those with addictions that function in society. Much more subtle and complex.

    Watching Rapid City community getting organized around this and other problems is uplifting. There are people there really trying to work on their issues and trying to become a community.

    Tribal councils generally have in their constitution how many representatives there are and what constitutes a quorum. There would not have been a meeting much less a vote without that quorum.

    I appreciate the discussion here. Tell your politicans this is a worthy cause.